Driving Along the Same Road

trafficI’m on the road attending a conference—Here’s a fitting repost.

For God does not show favoritism. Romans 2:11 (NLT)

I haven’t traveled much in the past couple of years. This last weekend I made a 350 mile round trip; just me, alone, in the car. I was great fun. It reminded me of all the times when as a twenty-something, I would hop in the car to go visit friends. In those youthful days, no weather report, no bank balance, no thought of tire tread crossed my mind.

Over the years I’ve had a number of different cars. Most were compact, inexpensive and used. I’ve been blessed, truly blessed, with reliable cars. Even though they were not elegant, they ran reliably, for the most part. All through college, God blessed me with cars that worked.

Now, I’m married to a guy who is particular about his cars. I drive one of his cars; which is nice for me. I provide the gas and that’s about it. When we met, I had a rusty Chevy. It was ugly but it got me where I was going.   For me, unlike my hubby, that is all a car has to do; reliably get me where I’m going. If it’s posh, that’s a bonus. If it runs, that’s enough.

As I was driving down the interstate the other day, I noticed the cars around me. I was in my small,     5-speed, zooming along. I passed or was passed by BMWs, a Ferrari, a Jaguar, a Corvette, a 1957 pink Chevy, a dirty old Ford pickup, a car with duct tape holding the bumper on, one with a bungee cord holding the trunk shut and a couple with red tape covering the brake lights.

The cars I passed varied wildly in value. Each had a different aesthetic. They had one thing in common; each one was moving toward a destination. The expensive, beautiful cars were doing the same thing the jury-rigged cars were doing—the same exact thing. Regardless of individual car, each of us was headed in the same direction, along the same stretch of road.

As I looked at the cars around me, a hot twinge of guilt stung my heart. I began to understand why I, the one who never looks at the cars around me, was noticing every car that passed. I’m guilty of summing people up rather quickly; whether the person is a “Corvette”, a “dirty old pickup” or one that is “barely held together with duct tape.” God was trying to get my attention. I thought of this passage in Romans and the one in Galatians 3:28. I like The Message’s paraphrase of Romans 2:

If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from,

what your parents taught you, what schools you attended.

But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs,

again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up.

Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval.

God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you.

He makes up his own mind. Romans 2:9-11 (MSG)

 

Ouch! I began to think of how each person is the same in God’s eyes. I make a lot of assumptions, assessments and conclusions when really we are all moving down the same road.

God’s grace and mercy are truly amazing! A holy God chooses and seeks out those who are sinful and rebellious. He offers a way of redemption. The salvation He offers cost Him His Son. That offer is open to anyone who will accept it. Once received, God looks at each of us in the same way.

May I be more like Him!

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The F-Words

fOh, the love that drew salvation’s plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span At Calvary!

Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty At Calvary. At Calvary by William R. Newell

The “F-words” are as follows: a, an, were, we’re, their, they’re, there, it’s, its, a lot (a lot is always two words). Those were the “F-words” in Ms Mitchell’s high school composition class; use one of them incorrectly, in any assignment, and your grade for that composition would be an automatic “F.” It didn’t matter if the paper was ten pages long and perfect in every way, if one of the “F words” was used incorrectly in the last sentence, the grade was an F. There was no debate, no recourse. To add insult to injury, Ms Mitchell would write the grade you would have received on top of the front page of the paper, put an X through it and then circle a big, fat “F” right next to the grade that was lost.

I learned this first hand, once. It was so demoralizing; I made sure never to repeat that event. I turned in my paper, I don’t remember the topic, but I remember thinking it was a good piece of work. A couple of days later, when my graded paper was retuned, I saw a delightful “B” with an X thought it and a big, red “F” right next to it. In the last sentence of my paper, I wrote “there” instead of “their”. Yes, the last sentence, in fact, the third from the last word!

I knew the difference between those two words. My pen got ahead of my brain. I have never been good at proof reading my own work; my brain simply fills in what I meant to write. Whatever the reason, I earned an “F” on that paper.

Ms Mitchell always held her ground; there was no mercy. She never reversed a decision; there was no need for a debate the word was there in all its wrongness. She did it for our own good. Today, I appreciate her.  Still, I think putting the grade on the paper and Xing it out was a bit of over kill, but it drove the point home.

Mercy; I always like to receive it. Mercy is showing kindness or forgiveness to those who may not deserve it. When I’m in need of it, I sure do hope some comes my way. I am sad to say, I’m not always generous when I need to show mercy. If I feel someone needs to learn a lesson, I’m like Ms Mitchell and my well of mercy can run dry, rather quickly.

In Hebrews, the writer outlines the supremacy of Christ. Christ is the embodiment of things the law and ritual sacrifices simply imitated. Jesus is now our high priest, but not like the ones in the Old Testament who were unapproachable and who were just people like anyone else. No, Christ was fully man so He understands temptation.   He understands it much better than I do, since He never sinned.   When I’m tempted, I can hold out without sinning for some period of time, it depends on the temptation and the day. I will eventually cave. At that point, my temptation stops and sin begins. Jesus was tempted and NEVER sinned. He fully experienced temptation.   He experienced temptation to an extent I will never know because He didn’t lapse into sin.

Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us why this is so important:

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy—accept the help.

We have a Savior who knows our struggles, better than we do. What a better place to go for mercy?   Do you need some kindness you don’t really deserve?   Would you like to settle a debt you could never, ever pay? Does your burdened soul need liberation? You can find liberation in our merciful Father’s gift of salvation.

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I Now Pronounce You…Saint!

liscenceWhat marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.

But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own. 1 John 3:1-3 (MSG)

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This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

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But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.   Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NLT)

My name is Rachel Stephenson. I started my life with the name Rachel Brown. The day the judge signed the marriage license, in a moment, I went from being Rachel Brown to Rachel Stephenson. All it took was a few seconds and a few signatures on a piece of paper. That simple transaction carries with it some profound life changes.

It’s more than a name change. I’m Terry’s wife. As the judge signed the marriage certificate, half of all Terry owned became mine, and vice-versa. That piece of paper legally obligates me to half of the debt we incur, even if it’s to purchase stuff I don’t want or use. Once our marriage license was signed, Terry couldn’t sell the house without my signature. I had to get a new nursing license, driver’s license and social security card—cards showing my new name. That little piece of paper, with a three of signatures changed many legal situations that day.

Other things changed, too. Once I knew I was going to marry Terry, I quit looking for a boyfriend. I was Terry’s and he was mine; period. Now other people are friends and acquaintances whose company I enjoy, but the relationship ends there because—I’m married to Terry. That’s my choice; I decided to live that way, long before I signed the license. I know things about Terry and can say things to Terry, that other people don’t and can’t—because I’m his wife and he’s my husband. I have a special relationship with Terry that I don’t have with any other person because of that piece of paper.

If you are a believer, you have a special relationship with God. When you accept Christ’s sacrifice for your sin, you are new! It’s more than a pass into heaven when you die. It’s for life here and now. You become a saint, in the flesh, a living saint.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking “I don’t act like a saint. I don’t feel like a saint.”   You aren’t perfect and neither am I. You are acquainted with your faults and weaknesses. I know mine well.   God knows your faults and weaknesses, too. Still, He calls you chosen, royal, child, and saint! In spite of what you think or how you feel, if you are a believer, you are a child of God, chosen, royal, saintly and a joint-heir with Jesus.

The lie is to believe that you must do something to make yourself holy, saintly or presentable.   You can try all you want; you’ll fail only compounding your inferiority. The lie that you aren’t good enough is the lie your enemy uses to keep you wallowing in your failures. It’s the lie that keeps you bound to shame and away from your loving Father’s embrace. It’s the lie that saps the energy from your spiritual life. It’s the lie that turns your zeal for God into the yawn that shrugs, “Why try, I’ll never be good enough anyway.”

Your heavenly Father changed you on the day you accepted Christ’s sacrifice as the remedy for your sinful state. God isn’t waiting until you die to make you a saint. You are a saint, NOW!

How different would you live your life is you felt like a saint? How different would your perspective be if you felt like one of God’s royal heirs? How different would your devotional time be if you felt holy? Think about that for a moment and you’ll understand why Satan uses these lies.

Ignore the lie that God’s love for you is dependent on your actions, thoughts or deeds. The transaction is finished. You are changed in God’s eyes. You can live life now as a saint, as a child of the king, as an heir to the throne.

If you can accept that a signature on a piece of paper changes your status here on earth, can you accept that fact that Jesus’ blood changes your status in God’s eyes?

You are a saint!

Let that sink in and it will change your actions.

Father, teach me to rest in Your truth alone. Cultivate saintly actions in my life. Help me see me through your eyes. Deafen my ears to the lie that my salvation is dependent on me. I want to live a life that is saintly now, not just in eternity.

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Working on Plan B

escape hatch 2So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.  Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.  1 Corinthians 1:20-21 (NLT)

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?  You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:1-3 (NLT)

 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)

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Judas and Peter were topics last week. More specifically, how each dealt with his betrayal of Jesus.   You may not be able to relate to those dramatic examples. Maybe you’re like Peter and deny the fact that you could deny Jesus. Maybe you’re like Judas and follow along—quietly denying your denial.

It’s an insidious lie that creeps into your mind and heart in everyday actions. Maybe it’s worth looking at some “real world” examples.

No true believer could say he got a bad deal from God. People, careers, churches, things, family; everything will eventually let you down. This world is imperfect but God will never renege on His promise.   I would wager, if you ask a true believer if God can meet any need, the answer would be “YES!” If you asked me that question, my answer would “Yes!” and I would add to it, “He wants to meet your needs.”

I say that, even after finding my car with a flat tire. It was a day jam-packed with errands and things that HAD to be done that day. I didn’t have a fixing flat tire factored into my schedule or my budget. The very first thought in my mind was, “How am I going to fix this. I don’t have the money for a new tire!!”

There it is. It’s the lie a believer believes. You can trust God for your salvation but trusting Him to meet your earthly needs, well, that’s another story. It’s the sneaky lie that causes you as a believer to focus on your strengths, your abilities and your resources. When it’s whispered in your heart it sounds like this:

  • That was nice of God. Why didn’t God prevent _____________from happening.
  • Why would God do this to you if He really loved you?
  • NOW what are your going to do?
  • How long do you think you’ll have to pray before God answers you?
  • If God is in control of everything, why is ­­­____________ happening? He must not care/love/hear you.

These lies cause you to scramble to provide yourself a “back-up” plan just in case God is busy on the day that you need help. It causes you work and fret making sure you have an escape-hatch ready just in case God doesn’t answer. I’m not suggesting that you should live your life without a plan, without good stewardship of your resources, or without accountability. Read Proverbs, God’s expectation is that you manage your resources.

Once again, you live in an imperfect world. You have an enemy. Your enemy’s job is not to flatten your tire, exhaust your funds or make you sick. Your enemy’s job is to cause you to question the motives of your heavenly Father. Your enemy’s tactic is to make you think inaccurately about God, to make you question His power, HIs goodness and HIs love.

I can’t fix all my problems. I can’t meet all my needs. I can’t remedy my sin-sick heart. I can trust in The One who can. You can, too. As soon as I saw my flat tire and my mind began to think of ways to solve the problem, my heart nudged me, reminding me this might be a good time to ask God for help. Although I’m sad to say prayer isn’t always my first response, I’m happy to say, I pray first much more often than I did in the past.   Being dependent is something that requires practice.

My prayer and my tire? My prayer was simple; God you know I don’t have the time or money for this. It was a nail. It took 15 minutes and $20 to fix.

God knows your need. He IS faithful. His timing is perfect.   Practice trusting Him for everything. Abandon that escape-hatch mentality. Fall in to his loving arms; He’ll catch you every time!

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Pick Me!

Young Boy at School Raising His Hand to Answer in ClassThey started arguing over which of them would be most famous. When Jesus realized how much this mattered to them, he brought a child to his side. “Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me,” he said. “And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference.”                           Luke 9:46-48 (MSG)

It had to be hard to be one of the disciples. I can’t imagine walking along with Jesus, talking quietly with the disciple next to me, only to have Jesus turn around and say something directly related to the subject we were whispering about.   I know in my head that God knows all my thoughts. When I actively think about that fact, I’m disturbed.

People often make the mistake of thinking that I say whatever is on my mind. I will admit, I am outspoken, but for as much as I blurt out, there is a lot that remains unsaid. I’m sure that is true for all of us. I’m sure it was true for the disciples, too. That is why I find the things recorded so interesting—most people frame things so they end up in the best light possible. I thank God the Bible gives us a look at people who look just like us.

Luke 9:46-56 records a string of missteps by the disciples. They were trying to figure out who would be the greatest. They were worried some other guy was horning in on their action by casting out demons in Jesus name.   Then as some went ahead to make arrangements for Jesus in a village, the village didn’t welcome them and the disciples wanted to know if they could “call down fire” on those people.

The disciples were taken with themselves. It would be hard not to be impressed with your company when you’re walking around with Jesus. It had to be exhilarating to see the miracles. It would be difficult to resist the temptation to think you were something because Jesus picked you to hang with Him.

I can relate to the disciples. There are time I’ve wanted “to call fire down from heaven and destroy” certain people. There is a constant drive to rank myself against those I see each day. The question nags me, “Am I better than him or her?” Sometimes it’s not a question; it’s the determination, “I am better than him or her.” It’s rarely that blatant, but my thoughts betray my heart. Somehow, not having Jesus here in person makes it easy to dismiss my selfish heart.

When I read Jesus’ reaction I see someone so unlike me. First of all, Jesus heart was open to all people; the supreme example of acceptance and love. Secondly, Jesus fully understood He wasn’t the main attraction. Jesus, who is God, knew His place. God the Father, the one who sent Him, is the important player in the equation. The disciples needed that reminder as often as I do. When God is the “most important” ranking last really isn’t too bad. Finally, Jesus wasn’t concerned with those who were not interested in who He was. He didn’t try to force His way in where He wasn’t wanted, He simply kept going.

What a sobering 10 verses these were today. They provide a necessary, yet, convicting reminder of how my heart strays from God’s plan and tries to set my own agenda, with me at the head of the table.

Father, I’m thankful for the reminder that You are the greatest, but came in love to redeem us all. Let that example be my guide. When I feel my heart swell with pride, please remind me You love each person I see as much as You love me. Let my actions imitate Yours. Give me Your love for others.

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I Need a Nap!

long week

 

If a picture paints a thousand words, I’ll let this one explain how I’m feeling today!

 

 

 

Below, you’ll find the links for the week’s posts—you can reread or catch up. Share them with your friends! Check out the little map on the right hand side—I installed it three weeks ago—it’s really filled up! Scroll down and look—you can see who else is reading along with you! That map humbles and amazes me!

If this blesses you, please share it with your friends and family. Thanks to the faithful readers who “like” and share post on Facebook each day. It may seem like a simple, unimportant thing – but it helps and I appreciate your support.

If you have friends and family members who are not computer users, who really like to hold books (as I do), or who need to hear the gospel in a nonthreatening way—would you consider purchasing them a copy of one of my devotional books? You can find them on Amazon.com. The Books We Never Read is a 3-month devotional in the Old Testament. Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a 1-month devotional. Thanks in advance!!!

Guess what will be available in a week or two? You guessed it—another devotional. Do you have friend or family that loves dogs? Are you a dog lover? Just in time to purchase as a stocking stuffer comes A Clever Disguise . It’s a 1-month devotional all about God but disguised as a devotional about Ozzy—it will be super affordable so you can purchase multiple copies and give them to your friends who need to understand God’s love and grace. I can’t wait for you to see it!!!

Have you felt like you’re looking in the mirror as you look at Peter’s life? Come back tomorrow. Peter has a few more lessons to teach us.

Monday: Toe Jam and Discipleship

Tuesday: You are not alone in your struggles.

Wednesday: Sometimes I act like Peter and follow at a distance waiting to see how it all will end.

Thursday: The rooster’s cry warned Peter—the path he was on was far more dangerous than the path he was trying to avoid.

Friday: Judas tried to remedy his failure on his own.

Two Men Cried

mack and trashEarly in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.  So they bound Him, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.  “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.  Matthew 27:1-5 (NIV)

There is a great deal of controversy over the acts and death of Judas Iscariot. I don’t plan on resolving any of those debates.  Judas’ actions offer a simple message for you and me.

Something interesting occurred on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Yesterday, Peter realized what he was capable of when the rooster’s crow caught his attention. Peter wept bitterly because of his poor performance—the betrayal of his close friend.

There was another person upset with his poor performance that night, Judas. The character is infamous—his name equivocated with betrayal and distrust. Do you know anyone named Judas? I don’t.

While many can tell the story of Judas’ betrayal, I’m not sure that’s the point. Failure is hardly something that needs to be taught, or even pointed out. The gasp at Judas’ betrayal is not surprising.

As Peter learned, everyone has the capacity to fail—to fail willfully, to fail utterly. Judas simply provides another example of that.   Both men lived with Jesus. Both men heard His teachings and saw the miracles. Just like Peter, Judas ate some of the left over fish and bread the day Jesus fed the 5,000. Judas was awestruck as Jesus calmed the storm at sea with just a word. As Peter mouthed off to Jesus the night Jesus began to wash Peter’s feet, according to scripture, Judas sat quietly as Jesus demonstrated the same love and compassion to him.

Failure is common. It’s the response to the failure that makes all the difference. It’s the response to their failure that separates Peter and Judas. That is the “take home” message from these two very different examples.

Both men failed. Both men felt the sting of guilt. Both men realized the wrong. Peter wept bitterly. Since Judas wasn’t alive to tell his story, we are left to guess, but I’m sure he wept bitter tears as the outcome of his failure played out before his eyes. It’s here these two men differ.

Judas tried to remedy his failure on his own. He attempted to stop the deal—to return the 30 pieces of silver—but it was too late.   The act was done and all that was left was the consequence. Then, in an act of despair, Judas tried one more remedy—under the weight of guilt —he crumbled. He made the un-doable decision and ended his life.

Judas heard the words of Jesus,

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:27-31 (NIV)

Judas couldn’t imagine those words applied to him.

Have you sinned a sin that keeps you away from Jesus? Are shame and guilt all you hold? Are you full of remorse that keeps you from repentance? Do you think Jesus holds you to a standard He wouldn’t maintain?

Jesus is ready to forgive your deepest, darkest, blackest sin–that secret sin only you know!

Remorse and repentance aren’t the same thing. Remorse leaves you wallowing in your shame. Remorse pushes YOU to find a solution—to make amends.  Repentance includes remorse, or regret but it goes one-step further it involves change.

If Judas cried his bitter tears that night and then ran to Jesus, this story would have a very different ending. There is ALWAYS forgiveness at the feet of Jesus.   There is ALWAYS an accepting embrace when the remorseful repent.

Shame and guilt never restore relationship. Jesus is not interested in what YOU can do to make things right. Jesus offers grace—the undeserved gift—to anyone who asks. Abandon the shame of your sin. Let go of the guilt that keeps you from coming to Christ. Don’t believe the lie that you need to fix yourself before you come.

Let Jesus in His love and mercy wash your feet, feed your soul, and calm your spirit with His forgiveness.

Father, when I need forgiveness don’t let my shame and regret keep me from coming to You. Remind me there is no good thing I can do to make myself better or acceptable apart from accepting Christ’s sacrifice. Turn my remorse into repentance.  

 

The Rooster’s Warning

roosterAnd when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them.  A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:55-62 (NIV)

Matthew                Mark                   Luke                     John

Peter’s three-time denial is a well-known story.  It appears in all four gospels.   Jesus, in response to Peter’s bold proclamation to follow Jesus to the grave if necessary, predicted Peter’s denial before the rooster crowed.   That’s an odd indicator—a rooster’s crow.

If you are “city folk” and watch movies, you may be inclined to think roosters only crow at dawn. It’s quaint and it does occur. If you’ve spent any time on a farm with a brood of chickens, it doesn’t take long before you find the rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-do” isn’t reserved for only daybreak.

I’ll admit I’m a little afraid of chickens. Hens and roosters have chased me. Although a chicken’s arsenal is limited—flapping wings, sharp claws and sturdy beaks—they can put up a painful fight as anyone who’s been flogged or pecked can attest. Still, chickens are truly chickens at heart. They would rather avoid a fight than try to win one.

Enter the rooster. It’s a rooster’s job to keep his chickens safe. To accomplish that, he crows when there is danger. That is why roosters crow at times other than dawn. If you watch the hens when the rooster crows, you’ll see them all stop whatever it is they are doing—frozen, the hens watch for any sudden movement—the movement will send them clucking and scurrying in different directions or back to hen-house.

Peter ran the gambit of emotions during the Passover meal, the garden prayer, the arrest and the trails of Jesus. Peter watched from a distance as the predictions of Jesus began to play out before his eyes. Peter was probably wondering how difficult it would be to find a new fishing boat as he wondered why he wasted three years following this man, Jesus, around. Fatigue, fear, panic—I’m sure they all swirled in his mind as Peter watched the man he pinned his hopes on taken into custody and beaten. How long would it be before he was the one being beaten? If he could lay low — maybe this nightmare would end and the twelve would be together again, with Jesus—as it was before Judas ran out and Jesus insisted on talking about His death.

Then Peter heard the words, Hey! You were with HIM! Peter’s reaction was the perfect “blow off,” Pffft—You don’t know what you’re talking about. Peter was safe for a while as just one of the crowd. As more people recognized him, as his accent betrayed him, his panic moved him deeper into fear and denial. I don ‘t know what curse words were in his culture, but Peter was not going to be named as a friend of that %!#+&* Jesus-guy. The crusty fisherman reverted to his old self and separated himself from Jesus with his frenzied words.

Then a rooster crowed.

I have to think Peter’s heart skipped a beat. His fear turned to anguish.  Peter had to feel naked in the crowd, a crowd that didn’t notice the rooster’s crow.   Jesus, Peter’s friend—beaten, spat upon, silent—made eye contact with Peter. Peter left the courtyard and cried bitter tears.

Peter thought the low light of night and the glow of the fire would hide him. He thought he was safe with his questioning doubt and fear. Peter’s fear led him on a downward spiral that started with words and concluded with raging emotion—the rooster’s crow got his attention. It stopped him.  The rooster’s nighttime cry redirected him. The rooster’s cry warned Peter—the path he was on was far more dangerous than the path he was trying to avoid.

Fear, sin, rebellion, all those lead one down a path of cost, pain and loss. Peter, jolted from his selfish tantrum, saw his friend.  Jesus, the one who loved him, who gave him a new name, who prayed over him, who warned him, the one about to become the sacrifice for the sin of the world—seeing Jesus changes everything.

Two med cried bitter tears that night. Peter’s tears led him to repentance. Peter’s tears, ultimately, led him back to Jesus.

Father, give me listening ears to hear Your voice when my selfish heart tries to lead me astray. When fear and doubt cause me to be willful and frightened—get my attention—draw me back to look at Jesus. Help me keep my eyes on Jesus. Let Your love and grace bring me to repentance.

Image courtesy of Bing.com/images

Full of Faith—Full of Fear

sneakyThen the people who had arrested Jesus led Him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed Him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end. Matthew 26:57-58 (NLT)

I feel for Peter. I would hate to have my actions recorded for anyone to read. If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve read the story. Peter boldly tells Jesus that he will follow Him to the grave. Jesus tells Peter it won’t be long before he denies Him, not once but three times.

We are left to imagine goes through Peter’s mind. I find it interesting that bold, outspoken Peter had a quiet thought of pause after Jesus, during the Passover celebration, told His closest friends that one of them would deny Him. For a moment Peter entertained the notion it could be him.

I can relate to Peter.

I grew up in church. I can sing songs like “I Surrender All” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” without the hymnal. While I’m at church the words come easy—I surrender all, all to Thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

Then I leave church.

Sometimes I act like Peter and follow at a distance waiting to see how it all will end. I’m sure that evening in the courtyard, Peter was faced with the realization, he had as much faith as he had fear.

There is the lesson Peter’s life offers you and me today. It seems incongruous—faith and fear are incompatible—yet anyone who is honest has to admit, both live in the human heart. So what made Peter willing to jump over the side of the boat one minute and then deny his friend in his friend’s darkest hour?

Proximity.

It’s the thing that makes singing I Surrender All so easy at church but loving someone, not like me, so difficult when I’m at the market moments later.  It’s having the faith to know that God loves me but worrying about what will happen if… (you fill in your if).

See? You and I can curl our lips and shake our heads at how weak Peter was, but in the harsh light of truth, you, Peter and I are all the same. We are more comfortable at a distance when we aren’t sure how things will work out. We are all full of faith AND full of fear.

In our sameness, there is one stark difference. Peter didn’t know how this would turn out. We have the entire story. We have Peter’s eye-catching failures and we see Jesus’ astounding reaction to those failures—love.

So, if your fear is running high, let me encourage you today, move closer to Jesus, even if you don’t see the outcome. It’s in close proximity to Jesus that faith soars and fear fades. King David learned that truth. Paul wrote about it.

If your fear—sin, failure, or your lack of skill—causes you to hide—run to God in faith—He is waiting to forgive, empower and strengthen you. The same love Jesus had for Peter He has for you!

Move close to Jesus. Stay close to Jesus.

Father, increase my faith and help me overcome my fear! I so often stay at a distance because I can’t see how things will work out—how I can be successful, pleasing to You or safe? Those questions plague my mind and I want to run in fear. Remind me that Your love for me is not conditional on my performance. Let Your love for me increase my faith and shrink my fear!

A Tuesday Reminder

pale blue dotIs there any place I can go to avoid Your Spirit, to be out of Your sight? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I go underground, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—You’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to You; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to You. Psalm 139:7-12 (MSG)

Depending on your computer screen’s resolution, you may not be able to see the tiny dot between the 2 white dashes in the picture above. That tiny dot is what earth looks like from 4 Billion miles away. That’s a lot of miles!! The sun is 93 million miles from earth. It’s difficult to comprehend those kind of distances. As one who asked, “How much longer until we’re there?” about 50 times on a 300-mile trip to grandma’s, the thought of a billion miles doesn’t fit in my head.

That’s the point.

Has life dealt you a blow that knocked the wind out of you? Is there some problem about to consume you? What is the thing that keeps you awake, steals your joy, causes you fear? Whatever that giant is, it fits on that tiny dot. Problems are real. Struggles exist. Pain abounds. Regardless, who you are or what your problem is, it all fits on that tiny, little dot.

If you’re overwhelmed, look at that picture for a minute. Don’t stop there, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and insignificant. Read the words David penned in Psalm 139.   God knows every detail of every event occurring on this tiny dot.

You are not alone in your struggles. You are not far from God’s watchful eye of love and protection.   Psalm 136 declares God’s infinite love and faithfulness to everyone on this speck. Salvation, protection, provision, goodness and love come from a God greater than the universe. This colossal, uncontainable God directs His attention to this little crumb in space; because of love.

Let God help you with your problem. The problem that is insurmountable to you is nothing to God. God has the incomprehensible, uncontrollable, unimaginable, universe in His hand. God never intended for you to face your problems alone. When you ask He doesn’t have to come running, He’s all ready here, just waiting for you to call out to Him. He’s waiting for you to ask him for help.

What are you waiting for?

Photo courtesy of: The Big Sky Astronomy Club, Inc. Copyright: 2003 – 2012.

The details of the Voyager photo shoot: http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/pale_blue_dot.html